75th anniversary celebration set for St. David
Their kinship shared over a lifetime has as much to do with Catholic faith as being related and their 9th Ward neighborhood. Parishioners at St. David Church are as close as family.
That bond strengthened when many were displaced for months after Hurricane Katrina, and they tracked each other down through what was called the St. David Catholic School Community Net. Parishioners were intent on returning to their familial and faith homes. They paid no attention to what officials said about the future of their neighborhood.
“We were determined to make it come back,” Betty Stewart, a lifetime parishioner and chairwoman of St. David’s pastoral council. “Not coming back was something that you couldn’t envision. Here in this area, roots run very deep. The property is passed down from one generation to the next. ... I couldn’t see not being here. I couldn’t envision life without the Lower 9th Ward, without family and without our church.”
And, in 2009, St. David Church was resurrected from the waters of Katrina and rededicated as a pristine place of worship.
“It was always, ‘We were going to fight to come back to St. David,’” said Diane Smith, chairwoman of the 75th anniversary celebration set for June 24.
When people moved back to other parts of town, they would pass multiple churches just to attend St. David. Some would even drive from Baton Rouge to attend Mass.
“It’s a warm feeling when you go to Mass at St. David,” Smith said.
Three years later, signs of progress are apparent at St. David in the number of people attending the two weekend Masses and the growth of ministries – for married couples, young adults, a Golden Club for those over age 60, a health ministry and the Elijah Cup to promote vocations. Four hundred families are registered with the parish.
The parish also hosted its first confirmation in 10 years, Father Oswald Pierre-Jules, pastor, said.
“Almost every weekend, we have new people at Mass,” he said. “And financially, the collection has increased. And having confirmation here is a good testimony that the parish is alive. ...The parish is alive spiritually as evidenced by our many ministries.”
“I see a lot of hope,” said Stewart, who calls St. David an extension of her immediate family. “Our next generation is stepping up. I see a lot of inspiration there.”
Another encouraging sign for the parish is that its old school building – flooded and now demolished – will be rebuilt with FEMA funding. A Total Community Action Head Start, complete with a gym and kitchen, will occupy it.
“That will foster a lot of interest and vibrancy in the community,” said Smith, a past PTA president.
Parishioners plan to pull out all the stops June 24 to celebrate St. David’s 75th anniversary. About 20 people – all heads of ministries – helped organized the event. Archbishop Gregory Aymond will celebrate a Mass at 10 a.m. – former pastors and parishioners have been invited – and a banquet will be held from 2-6 p.m. at the Crystal Palace in New Orleans. Tickets are $40; call 947-2853.
“Our journey has been a struggle, but the parishioners of St. David are a determined and resilient people,” Smith said. “Post-Katrina, we’ve come far by faith to be able to celebrate 75 years and, with faith, we will continue to grow spiritually, strengthen our parish, provide service and continue to be a beacon of the community.”
Organizers say it’s much more than a banquet. Long-time parishioners have been assigned major roles. Choir director Stephen Young Sr. will emcee, and Augustine Cobette will introduce a guest speaker.
The Mass and reception are only two events to celebrate the year-long anniversary. A Mass in January kicked off the commemoration, and a variety of fund-raisers and a parish picnic also were held. A separate men’s and women’s weekend are planned in August and September.
“It’s a new chapter in our encyclopedia,” Smith joked. “We look forward to starting a new chapter. There’s always something we can add. We are here.”
“And we’re going to stay,” Terry Claverie, 75th anniversary co-chairwoman, said.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.